Today we had another hearty breakfast at our B & B in Jasper before packing the car once again for our day on the road. And what a day it was! We saw sights today we've never ever seen and probably unlikely to see again.
We drove off from Jasper and less than half an hour south we stopped at the Athabasca Falls. Waterfalls are always great, to see the calm river meandering along then all of a sudden plummet down with a crashing roar. Both these falls, and then a short drive to see the Sunaptwa Falls, were great to see and witness the power water has over rock along a long time span.
We took off again but soon something caught me eye as I drove along the Icefields Parkway. I said to Vicky that I thought I saw a brought bear perched high on a tree. She didn't believe me of course! I wasn't quite sure as we were travelling 100kph so I doubled back around and sure enough, there it was. It had climbed up high in the tree, it was eating the berries or whatever was on that tree. We stopped roadside to take pics and videos and as often happens here, other motorists soon stopped also to view. As soon as you see a car stopped on the highway here in Canada it usually means they have spotted wildlife. We watched the bear for about 10 minutes, as it reached the top of the thinning tree we were sure the branches would snap and it would fall, but it clung on. Definitely a highlight of the trip so far to get so close to a brown bear in the wild.
Another short drive and we were presented with the spectacular view of the Columbia Icefields. It felt like I was dropped on another planet, words can't describe this place. Best way to explain - the Athabasca Glacier that we could see in front of us had been through the terrain, carving out the rock in its path. Where we stopped and parked to buy tickets for the glacier tour was where the glacier had been in the late 1800s. Now it is a few hundred metres into the mountains and it has left behind rubble and dirt. We took a special glacier bus - only 23 of the world exist and all but one are here - and it drove us onto the glacier where we hopped off and walked around for about 20 minutes taking photos. Certainly another awesome experience.
As we travelled south we found the snow capped mountains more and more abundant. The views were incredible. We also found that despite it being just 6 weeks short of their summer here, some of the roads we wanted to travel on to see some sights were still closed due to ice. We pulled over and tried to see Peyto Lake, but the entire place was snowed in still. We attempted to walk the several hundred metres to the viewpoint but we kept sinking in the snow and without the proper gear we had to turn back and miss out.
Our next stops were to be Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, but again the road to Lake Moraine was closed. But we still got to Lake Louise which is one of the most photographed lakes in the world. Only just over 1.5kms long it has mountains and glaciers at the far end, and when we got there we found the lake was still totally frozen over. It was quite a sight to see but a fully thawed Lake Louise would have been more spectacular as the blue glacier-fed water makes this a stunning sight to see.
Entering Lake Louise was an emotional time, I had to fight back the small tears welling up. My reason is that I first heard of Lake Louise when I was a child, my mother's Uncle Joe would always tell us it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. As a young child, that didn't mean much to me, not knowing anything about travel at that age. But Uncle Joe loved Canada, he would come here many times. I remember him telling me about a place called Kamloops and as a child I thought that was a funny name for a place, reminded me of Fruit Loops. On our train journey here we stopped at Kamloops but stayed on the train. And today here I was standing and looking at the Lake Louise I had first heard about some 40 years ago and my thoughts turned to the words from Uncle Joe. It was a sombre moment but a special one for me.
Enough of the sentiment! The day was passing and we still had about 90 minutes to get to our next bed n breakfast which was in Canmore, about 22kms south of Banff. I dropped Vicky off at the laundromat in town as we had been travelling almost two weeks and had not washed any clothes. I went to our B & B to check in, a lovely place called Stella Alpina where I was warmly welcomed by the owners. Turns out Carmelo (who runs the place with his wife Anneke), was born in Sicily and has been to the island where my parents are both from. It was a tiring but amazing day driving, it wasn't long before we settled in and crashed off to sleep.